What to watch on offense
Bo Pelini is in his 7th year at Nebraska and the natives are growing restless. Despite bringing a level of stability to the Huskers, Pelini has lost at least 4 games in each of his 6 seasons at the helm. Off Coor. Tim Beck enters his 3rd year after serving as the RB coach at Nebraska the period 3 years. Thanks to the presence of Taylor Martinez, Nebraska has mainly employed pistol based spread attac k offensively. Injuries to Martinez have allowed the Huskers to experiment with pro-style schemes and plays that were previously unavailable.
Taylor Martinez has been the face of the Nebraska offense for going on 4 seasons. By virtue of sheer number of starts Martinez was already Nebraska’s career leader in passing yards heading into the season. Martinez has experienced an injury plagued season, missing 4 of the team’s 9 games so far. Redshirt freshmen Tommy Armstrong has done an admirable job filling in, going 4-0 as a starter but does have more interceptions than TDs.
Ameer Abdullah rushed for 1,100 yards a year ago and returns to lead a rushing attacked that is ranked in the top 15 in the country. The Huskers lost longtime stud Rex Burkhead but haven’t lost a beat with Abdullah and the powerful Imani Cross. At 6’1 225 cross brings an added power dimension to an offense that is built on moving the pile and between the tackle runs.
The Huskers return their top two receivers in Kenny Bell and Quincy Enuwa, both of whom are now upperclassmen. Bell led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs a year ago though Enunwa has emerged as the go to WR so far this season. Redshirt freshmen Jordan Westerkamp is average 13yds per reception this season, though he only has 14 catches on the year.
Nebraska has made its reputation based on the play of its offensive line and takes great pride in the unit. The Huskers lose LG Seung Hoon Choi and center Justin Jackson but return as many as 8 players with game experience. Tackle Jeremiah Sirles was 2nd time All-Big 10 a year ago and returns to lead a unit that is while plagued with injuries, has been very effective so far this season.
Best Offensive Player
Ameer Abdullah- Abdullah is the player that makes the Husker offense go. While not the biggest player at 5’9 190, Abdullah is adept at finding holes and has surprising inside running power to go along with his outside and break away speed. Abdullah has already gone over the 1,000yd mark and is on pace to finish with well over 1,500yds.
Head Coach: Bo Pelini- 7th year
Off Coor: Tim Beck- 3rd year
Def Coor: John Papuchis – 2nd year
*If Martinez plays
RB Rex Burkhead
TE Kyler Reed
OL Seung Hoon Choi
OL Justin Jackson
DE Eric Martin
DT Baker Steinkuhler
LB Will Compton
LB Alonzo Whaley
SS Daimion Stafford
FS PJ Smith
RB Ameer Abdullah
WR Kenny Bell
WR Quincy Enunwa
OL Jeremiah Sirles
DE Jason Ankrah
CB Ciante Evans
What to watch on defense
Bo Pelini is heavily involved in the game planning and gameday play calling for the Husker defense. While John Papuchis is technically the defensive coordinator, he defers to Pelini. The Huskers “black shirt” defense has taken it share of shots this season but prides itself on its ability to control the game with the front 7, particularly the front 4.
The Huskers lost nearly every meaningful defensive linemen from a year ago, including their top 2 edge rushers. The Huskers did add a high impact JUCO DE in Randy Gregory who leads in the team in sacks. The returning Jason Ankrah has also done a standup job off the edge. The Huskers have traditionally had a stout pair of DTs, this year is no exception with the 325lb Vincent Valentine anchoring the interior of the line.
The Huskers started 3 seniors at LBer a year ago, forcing them to play 3 new players this season. Sophomore David Santos has been the most productive of the Husker LBers, leading the team in tackles with 55. As has often been the case at Nebraska under Pelini, Nebraska’s most talented LB came from the JUCO ranks in Zaire Anderson. Anderson is a speed missile that has made a living making plays in the backfield though he is likely at his best in space and out in coverage.
The Huskers lose both safeties but returns experience players at CB in Ciante Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and Andrew Green. Evans posted 56 tackles with 8 pass breakups a year ago, while Green had 50 tackles on the year but just 3 pass breakups. Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and Green have great size at 5’11, 6’3, and 6’0 respectively and are among the most active DBs in the Big 10. Must was expected out of Cory Cooper at safety, and the junior is currently 2nd on the team in tackles.
Best Defensive Player
Ciante Evans- Evans has made plays all over the field, recording 6.5 TFL to go along with his 3 interceptions (one for TD). The Huskers consider Evan their lockdown CB, and the senior has not disappointed.
Michigan Rush Def vs. Nebraska Rush Off
Nebraska is 13th in the country in rushing and has the Big 10’s leading rusher i n Ameer Abdullah. The passing game has been hit or miss for the Huskers this season so they have been forced to rely on their running game to score points and move the chains.
The Wolverines are among the nation’s best in run defense, posting top 15 numbers. The combination of interior line play as well insider LBer play has produced a formidable unit under Greg Mattison.
Michigan Pass Def vs. Nebraska Pass Off
Nebraska’s passing game is ranked 90in the country and the Huskers have failed to pass for over 200yds in 5 of their 7 games this season. Despite the presence of experience WRs, QB play has held the Nebraska passing game in check.
Michigan’s secondary has been a trainwreck so far this season. Poor fundamentals and technique allowed otherwise average QBs and WRs to post monster numbers against the Wolverines.
Michigan Rush Off vs. Nebraska Rush Def
Michigan posted it worse rushing numbers in recent memory for even the most seasoned Wolverine fans. Poor line play, combined with average RB play has created a blackhole where the running game is concern. Devin Gardner’s feet are still Michigan’s most dangerous weapon on the ground though the play of the offensive line is critical to success.
Nebraska has one of the weakness rush defenses in the country, allowing an average 182ypg. Inexperience at both defensive line and LBer have put the Huskers at a tremendous disadvantage.
Michigan Pass Off vs. Nebraska Pass Def
The Michigan passing game has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season. Thanks to the play of Jeremy Gallon and particularly Devin Funchess, Michigan has enjoyed an advantage against most opponent. QB play has derailed what could otherwise be a record setting passing attack.
Nebraska is 4th in the Big 10, and 40th in the country in pass defense. The unit actually plays better than the numbers indicate. The lack of consistent pass rush as well as the number of plays the defense has been forced to defend have played a large role in how the secondary has performed. The Huskers have a talented, well coached, and experienced group of DBs.